news photo 120120-m-bo337-096 - u.s. marines conduct immediate-action drills after a helicopter insert during exercise lava viper at pohakuloa training area hawaii on jan. 20

Hanabusa prioritizes military money

Colleen Hanabusa's introduction of a bill that would expand the Pohakuloa training area ignores Native Hawaiian, environmental, civilian concerns in favor of an Imitate Inouye policy.

Colleen Hanabusa still believes that imitating Daniel Inouye’s legacy as a star defense spending fundraiser can translate to a win in her own Senate bid. Hanabusa co-sponsored the Asia-Pacific Priority Act with Republican Congressman Randy Forbes which, among other things, would upgrade the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island and designate it as the primary military training ground in the Pacific.

As Ian Lind wrote today, there is a long history of democrats in Hawaii targeting defense spending for state fundraising, but no one was better at it (or had a longer at bat) than Senator Inouye did. And he was generally hailed as hero for regularly securing large amounts of Federal dollars for the state.

Hanabusa is not Inouye, however—as much as she might want to be. And her insistence that she is the perfect successor to him—particularly in the realm of bringing defense spending to Hawaii—is beginning to make her sound like a one-trick pony (and a mediocre one at that). On top of that, recent news regarding Pohakuloa and the military presence in Hawaii has not exactly been positive.

Just a few days after the Hanabusa-Forbes bill was announced, Waimea residents Clarence Ching and Mary Kahaulelio sued the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) for failing to enforce clean-up provisions in the military’s lease for the 133,000 acre training ground in the middle of Hawaii island.

Ching (a cultural practitioner) and Kahaulelio (a Hawaiian Home Lands lessee) are represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) and claim that William Aila Jr. (DLNR director) and the department, as trustees, have duties to protect ceded lands from being harmed—duties they have failed in.

Pohakuloa has been controlled by the military since 1964, when the State of Hawaii agreed to lease three parcels of land there to the Federal government for 65 years. Lease conditions, however, require that the Army “make every reasonable effort to . . . remove or deactivate all live or blank ammunition” and to “remove or bury all trash, garbage or other waste materials.”

In a press release from NHLC Ching, who has cultural ties to the land, stated that “The State has taken no steps to investigate or monitor the Army’s compliance with the terms of the lease. But the State’s own records show that it knows that unexploded ordnance litters the landscape.”

Kahaulelio, who lives on Hawaiian Home land in Waimea, added, “The State has done nothing to make sure that the Army complies with the terms of the lease. It can’t just sit on its okole while trust lands are damaged. Like the king, chiefs, and konohiki before it, the state has a solemn duty to malama.”

According to the complaint filed in circuit court Monday, while Aila is “aware that military training activities have caused great damage to public land, natural resources and cultural sites in Hawaii,” his and the State’s continued inaction as trustees of the land at Pohakuloa condone further destruction and damage.

Ching and Kahaulelio want the court to block the state from negotiating an extension of the lease with the Army, so long as the terms of the lease are being violated. The Pohakuloa lease expires on August 16, 2029.

Hanabusa, meanwhile, has showered her Pacific military bulk-up bill with praise, completely failing to address the already long-standing environmental, cultural and political concerns that have been expressed by civilians over the already massive training center.

After the center was already built, an Environmental Impact Statement (which was, itself, only ordered because of another lawsuit) found that the area was home to endangered and threatened plant and animal species as well as more than 300 culturally significant archaeological sites, even though the military’s environmental assessment found that “no significant impact” would occur should the facility be built.

As this continues to be a hot political issue, Hanabusa would do well to pay more attention to both sides of the issue, if she hopes to do a better job of navigating it in the coming months before November.